via Press Telegram: This seems familiar. I’ve spent a lot of time with these guys. That’s Harry Potter and Dexter sitting across from me. Well, not really. It’s Daniel Radcliffe and Michael C. Hall, and they play very different characters in “Kill Your Darlings,” which opens Wednesday.
The film, created by first-time director John Krokidas from a script he wrote with Austin Bunn, tells a little-known true story of the founders of the Beat Generation. Radcliffe portrays a young Allen Ginsberg, the famed poet, and Hall is David Kammerer, whose murder is revealed early on in the film.
“It was nice to turn the tables on myself,” says Hall, who played an amiable serial killer for eight seasons on Showtime’s recently departed “Dexter.” The slaying of Kammerer by Lucien Carr, a classmate and friend of Ginsberg’s at Columbia University in the mid-1940s, was for various reasons little talked about until Carr’s death in 2005.
As it happens, Hall had been fascinated with the Beat Generation for some time and knew the story, but wondered why it hadn’t been told more widely. The actor had even met Ginsberg, who died in 1997, a couple of times in the early 1990s. Read more after the jump.
“I also met him in the ’40s,” he jokes, looking over at Radcliffe. (Hall is 42.)
Radcliffe, 24, first came to prominence as an 11-year-old when he was cast as the boy wizard and has lived in something of a bubble. Since the franchise’s eighth and final movie in 2011, he has put his wand away to show he is capable of some magic of his own, starring in a Broadway revival of the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and the horror film “The Woman in Black.”
Besides “Darlings,” he also has the romantic comedy “The F Word” opposite Zoe Kazan and the dark fantasy “Horns” with Juno Temple coming out.
Up next is a new adaptation of “Frankenstein,” in which he plays Igor to James McAvoy’s Victor.
“It’s going to be crazy,” Radcliffe says. “It’s not an adaptation of the book. I want to dispel that idea now.”
And he would also like to dispel the notion that “Kill Your Darlings” is some kind of reference to how he feels about the “Potter” films.
“It’s been interesting. People have used all kinds of violent language recently about separating myself from Potter,” Radcliffe says. “I was in Europe and all these journalists were saying, ‘You’re stabbing Harry in the back.’ It’s really weird. It’s not how I feel. I’m incredibly proud of those films.”
Undoubtedly, the gay sex scene that Radcliffe has in “Darlings” may seem daring to some, but the actor dismisses talk that it’s in anyway controversial. At 17, he starred in Peter Shaffer’s psychosexual drama “Equus” on Broadway, which required full-frontal nudity; this should have signaled to “Potter” fans that the actor was not going to be the boy wizard forever.
Radcliffe says he didn’t know a lot about Ginsberg before the movie, although he himself is “obsessed” with poetry and is a published poet himself. He had read Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” William Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” and, before the movie, “Howl,” Ginsberg’s grand opus.
In 1943, the somewhat naive 17-year-old Ginsberg met Carr, who was a few years older, at Columbia. The charismatic Carr (played in the film by Dane DeHaan) introduced the budding poet to Kerouac (Jack Huston) and Burroughs (Ben Foster), and a bohemian lifestyle involving jazz, alcohol and drugs.
Somewhere floating around this literary circle was Kammerer, a former university professor who had become fixated on Carr when he was his Boy Scout leader in St. Louis and had followed the young man — some 14 years his junior — to New York City.
“Kill Your Darlings” is filled with complex relationships. That Carr killed Kammerer is not in question. It is the circumstances and their real relationship that are murky. In his New York Times obituary, Carr was called “a literary lion who never roared.” Ginsberg called him “the glue” of the Beat movement.
In the film, Ginsberg and Kammerer vie for Carr’s attention.
“I think what’s interesting about their rivalry is there is a real commonality that they get to in the end,” says Hall, who describes his character as “an example of somebody who’s very perceptive, but has a blind spot when it comes to himself.”
“I think the relationships in the film are fascinating,” says Radcliffe about what attracted him to the role. “And I had never played this type of character before. It allowed me to show more of what I could do.”
Radcliffe also enjoyed the atmosphere on set while making the movie. When he was shooting the “Potter” films, he was the only actor who had to be on the set all the time.
“So the people I was close to were the crew,” he says.
On “Darlings,” Radcliffe says it was “the first film that I felt the sort of shared feeling you get from being onstage with the other actors.”
Speaking of theater, Radcliffe recently finished a three-month run in London in Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan.” Meanwhile, starting in March, Hall will star with Marisa Tomei and Toni Collette on Broadway in “The Realistic Joneses” by Will Eno.
“I haven’t been back for several years and its probably as long as I’ve ever been offstage my entire life,” says Hall. “I’m excited that it’s a new play by a living American writer on Broadway. That’s a rare thing these days.”
Before Hall became a TV star — first in “Six Feet Under” and then “Dexter” — he made his mark as the emcee in San Mendes’ acclaimed Broadway revival of “Cabaret.”
Radcliffe mentions that his parents were most excited by that when they heard Hall would be in “Darlings” with him.
“It was like throwing a party every night that ended really badly,” says Hall about playing the emcee. “Then we’d do it again the next day.”
Radcliffe then asked him how long he had performed the part.
“I did it 493 times,” Hall replies.
“Oh,” says Radcliffe, his eyes widening with appreciation. “That’s very good.”
So while both men are comfortable singing and hoofing onstage, it is the way that their characters dance around Carr that is at the heart of “Kill Your Darlings.” The title is not meant to be taken literally — perhaps in Carr’s case — but it’s advice from a professor on writing, a metaphor for an artist not to overuse his favorite elements.
In artistic circles, characters like Carr are not uncommon — attractive, glib, self-possessed, someone people are easily drawn to. Had either actor met someone like that in their lives?
“I’ve definitely had a few people like that in my life — though I wasn’t going to kill anyone,” says Radcliffe, with a laugh. “There’s something exciting about that kind of person, but then after you hang out with them for a while, you start to think he’s kind of a rude (expletive). But for a while they can be alluring.”
Carr — who became an editor at United Press International — and the other Beats stayed in contact long after the slaying. Ginsberg initially dedicated “Howl,” when it was published in 1956, to Carr until he asked that his name be taken off it.
How all this squares up is to be decided by the viewer. But as Hall notes, “first impression, best impression” — a Beats idea echoed in the film — and the notion of “kill your darlings” is somewhat contradictory, too.
“It’s interesting because I don’t think we necessarily glamorize the era too much,” says Radcliffe. “We show it as being exciting — as exciting as it was — but that’s part of the attraction that it still has.”
Hall agrees, adding that there is something “irresistible in the worldliness” of the Beats, but that the film also shows the sometimes dark results of their actions.
Still, if you’re going to immerse yourself in a bygone time for that long, was there anything the actors would take from the period? The music? The clothes?
“Jazz never really floated my boat,” says Radcliffe. “I need to be taught it properly or something, because I’ve never really quite got it, I guess. So I’ll take the clothes.”
“OK,” Hall says, with a smile. “I’ll take the music.”
Then a PR person comes in and says I have one more question. Hall suggests “The meaning of life.”
That would be interesting, either with Harry and Dexter or Michael and Daniel.